Quarantine Daydreams: Rio de Janeiro

Quarantine Daydreams is a new content series in which we ask fellow travelers which destinations they've been daydreaming about while in lockdown, and how we can all make a positive impact on those destinations when we can finally visit — and also while we can't. If you'd like to contribute to this series, please reach out at conor@hiddenlemur.com. This week's contributor is Sonia Dheer, a digital nomad, YouTuber, and avid traveler who has been reminiscing about her Rio de Janeiro vacation. You can see her channel here.

Though the only place I’ve been able to travel to in the last 8 weeks has been the local Costco, the quarantine has at least given me lots of time to reflect on all the incredible places I’ve been able to visit over the last few years. One place in particular that I’ve found myself reminiscing over quite a lot lately is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Rio’s energy is like that of no other place I’ve ever been to. As I sit in my childhood home in Toronto, watching snow fall in the middle of May, there’s nothing I miss more than walking down the streets of Lapa in the middle of summer hopping from one samba bar to the next with a delicious caipirinha in hand. Rio’s charm goes beyond its gorgeous sandy beaches, picturesque sunsets and postcard perfect views – the heart of the city is its people. Their warmth, kindness and genuineness is unparalleled and often makes you forget you’re in a metropolis of over 6 million people! 

Sustainable tourism in Rio de Janeiro

One of the most eye-opening experiences of my time in Rio was doing a tour of Rocinha, the city’s largest favela. Approximately 24% of Rio’s population resides in favelas. Due in large part to pacification efforts that have taken place in many of these favelas, several have gone from no-go zones ridden with drugs and crime to vibrant, innovative and opportunistic communities.

A great way to support social and economic sustainability in Rio is to take a favela tour operated by a company that employs local residents as tour guides. Not only do you get a more authentic glimpse into life in the favela, but you also support its development and growth. Favela Experience is one great tour provider that directly benefits the community it works in.

From an environmental perspective, Rio is a large cosmopolitan city with many affordable, comfortable and energy efficient public transportation options (e.g. metro, city busses, mini busses) that allow you to get around the city in a sustainable way while providing an entertaining experience. Quite frankly, some of my most memorable travel moments have been from public transportation! 

How to help locals in Rio de Janeiro from afar

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Brazil hard. Poor communities in places like Rio have unfortunately felt its wrath the most, from both a health and economic perspective.

One way you can support the community in Rio while respecting lockdown/quarantine protocols is to make a donation to one of the incredible initiatives that perfectly embodies the essence of empowerment: Favela Inc. – a non-profit organization that helps low-income communities cultivate self-sustainable organizations in the favelas through customized education, incubation and mentorship. They’ve also been very responsive to the needs that have arisen from the pandemic. 

Rio will always hold a special place in my heart. Anyone who decides to take a Rio de Janeiro vacation will surely appreciate the beauty of its people, culture and nature. I can’t wait to return to this magical city and uncover more of its incredible wonders someday!